Has Social Media Made Us a More Close-Minded Society or Open-Minded Society?

Social Media thought of the day/week/year: Has social media made us a more close-minded society or open-minded society?

It is true, we have access to more opinions and stories from people around the world thanks to social media, which is one of the things I love about it…but does the lack of one-on-one personal human interaction turn us into prisoners and confine us to our own little protective bubbles? Are the passionate posts and opinions we put on Facebook and social media about politics, religion, social issues etc…topics and points we’d be willing and comfortable to discuss face-to-face with people? Do we even make the attempt? And most importantly, are we willing to also talk to those who have differing opinions or other ideas and thoughts than us? Even if it makes us uncomfortable? Do we have the tough conversations in-person? Or are those the posts we only publish to Facebook?

While social media is a great place for dialog and idea sharing. I also feel it is a corrupt place that we use as a replacement for important face-to-face conversations. It’s a place where I’ve seen people all too quickly make decisions on “who is against them” and “who is with them” based on who likes their post or makes a positive or negative comment, or who shares like-minded news stories. I have felt the push back of many people who I would have liked to consider “a friend” that weren’t happy with the fact that I didn’t necessarily agree 100% with them on hot-button topics, typically in the arena of religion, politics and social matters.

Dusty and I have always tried to surround ourselves with people who think differently and have different viewpoints than we do…and naturally, we will attract those who have similar opinions…but shielding ourselves from those who may disagree with us or live a lifestyle differently than ours doesn’t make us better, stronger, more capable people. It just makes us hard, bitter and close-minded. And social media can feed this if we let it.

I’ve always taken pride in the fact that I don’t feel I fit any certain “social group” or category…although a lot of people would like to place me (and you) into categories for their own comfort…I’ve always been a girly-girl, but not really…who enjoys fishing…but not spiders…who can fillet and gut a fish but could never shoot a deer…who can eat McDonalds…and also supports the local food market by shopping “local”…who can go camping but prefers the comfort of her own bed, can wear heels and loves learning about makeup… but seldom wears either. Who played girls hockey and other sports but also did beauty pageants….who identifies as someone that cares for women’s rights but doesn’t agree witht he idea of abortion (yikes! did you cringe?)…who is a Christian but has friends who are agnostic, Muslim, bi-sexual, gay and lesbian (and loves them deeply). And the list goes on….you get where I am going with this…or maybe I lost you a long time ago. Or maybe by now you’ve decided I am a redneck, fear mongering bigot who wants to take away all of rights that women have? Anyways, the point of this rant is that I don’t think Facebook or social media alone can let you know the true extent of someone’s character or person, yet we let social media do just that – we let it determine where we categorize people… “they are for what I am for, so I like them.”

Either way, the point is that we want to feel we have the support of those who are like us…we want the ideas and opinions we post on Facebook and social media to be heard but not disagreed with. We want to feel that we have all of our friends in our little bubble and we all think, dream and feel the same…because that’s the comfortable way to do things.

As you know, or maybe I’ve just confused you…but I am a HUGE fan of social media. I use it for work both personally and professionally. But anything I blog or post about, no matter what the topic, would also be fair game for conversation when I see someone in-person. And actually, I try to have those conversations face-to-face with people regularly – and I wish I could more often. Have you ever approached someone casually and brought up the Facebook post/status they recently shared that went on some irate tangent about their feelings on (insert hot-button topic)? I often wonder if I approached someone and said something like – “hey, so I saw you posted about ______ the other day, let’s talk more about it. I’d love to understand more where you are coming from.” I am sure I’d get a deer in headlights look and all sorts of uncomfortable feelings tossed my way. And my question is WHY is this?

In the end, if there is one thing I’ve learned with my communications degree and “gift of gab” is that  technology can never ever replace one-on-one human interaction…it just can’t and never will. We are programmed to be relational beings and while social media might help us connect with one another, it definitely should not be a replacement tool. I think it leaves us close-minded and judgmental if we aren’t too careful.

So, I challenge you, and myself, in the wake of all of the crazy political, religious, social ideologies that are bombarding our lives…make it a point to have those deep and meaningful conversations in-person or face-to-face with others…and don’t just seek out those that agree with you. That’s no fun.


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